You all know how much I love the website, Goodreads. It's a great place to make new discoveries, meet fantastic avid readers and join book clubs and groups that support your genres of stories. With that being said, I've read quite a few books in the last few years, which is one of the reasons I can't seem to get my own novel written for reading other great novels. Trust me, when I read a book, I truly read the book! That means I am not only paying attention to the story, but to other great details as well.
My mother, who is also an avid reader, so much so she's read thousands of books, feels as passionate about reading as I do, which is where I got my love and thirst for the written word. So we have many discussions about what we like about books and what we don't and I can tell ya, one thing we most definitely agree upon is how a story makes us feel.
I've been called the 'Simon Cowell' of reviews because I'm pretty graphic on how I feel about a storyline. I don't believe in mincing my words nor do I believe in lying on how a particular story made me feel, and my mom is the same way, although she doesn't get too technical with authors in her review. She won't discuss if there are many errors or things like that, wherein I will. Why, because as an author myself, you come to expect certain things, at least, I do, and I want people to be as honest and detailed in how my writing affected them.
Which brings me to what this blog post is about today. I'm speaking directly to authors, and it's quite fine for readers to also come away with something from what is being said here as well. We all know that in real life, our true "reality" we live in can be horrible. There are situations that happen in our lives that can turn things literally upside down within a blink of an eye, and can cause heartache and dramatic occurrences, so knowing that this happens, why on earth would you want to read a book that copies your everyday reality?
Are you not sure where I'm going yet--just continue reading! I love a story that grabs me from the first paragraph. I even love a story that makes me work for the excitement, as long as it eventually gets me where I need to be, and I love complexities of characters and storylines with twists and turns wherein it creates a climatic episode in my mind, and sends me into euphoria. But if you want to turn down the heat and lose me as a reader, end your story on the wrong note, and more than likely, I'll never read another book you've written. This to me is something that many authors do to create a realism, if you will, to the story. Make you feel like you were really going through it with the characters you came to learn about. But what that does to me is leave such a negative residue that it angers my very core and turns me against the author, which is not something you want to create too often if you plan on sticking in the writing business.
Make no mistake, if you write a damn good story and the wrong people end up together, or someone dies that clearly should have had a fighting chance, or you keep toying with my emotions through the entire book, only to cliff hang me near the end, and there's no sequel or epilogue to clean up the mess, I will never, ever read another damn book you've written, and you can rest assured I will write a review that is not favored to you at all! How horrible is that to betray your fans with such a negative vibe? Why in the world would you want to do that to your readers on purpose?
In real life, often times there are no happy endings. You may eventually get to a situation that makes your struggle more bearable, but it may not turn out quite the way you want it too. So why the hell would I want to waste a few hours or a couple of days of my precious time giving the author the benefit of the doubt reading the words you slaved over, only to discover the novel has a horrible ending? That's not entertainment, authors, that's depression! I want great entertainment in my reading to help me forget and escape the everyday bullshit my life has to suffer through. The last thing I ever want to deal with is to read a great story only to be let down, much like real people do in my life. Where the hell is the fun in that?
It seems like anymore movies you go to see and books you read all have to leave this bad bitter taste in your mouth with the endings. You mean to tell me you really enjoy having spent a couple hours watching a movie or reading a book--to only get to the end, and it ends poorly. That really made you feel good about the movie or book? You can live with how it ended, when the storyline ends horribly wrong? This makes you feel great inside, really?
So my message to authors is plain and simple, if you write a great book and it ends on a poor note, I guarantee you two things will definitely happen. One, I will never read anything else you've done nor will I recommend your work to other readers, and two, I will also let my negative feelings your book gave me extend through my fingertips onto an Amazon and Goodreads review to let every reader know just how awful your words made me feel. And if you think for one second that my review doesn't mean anything, I'd like to point out another fact for you--it does! You know why my review means something because I get tons of hits from readers who most definitely read and respect, oh yes, respect my reviews, and they are more than likely not going to read your books either or if they decide to read, the book may find itself placed very low on their reading shelves.
Needless to say I have had it with these great, critically acclaimed books I hear so much about and then I spend my damn money to read them, only to discover the characters don't have much character to them or the story has a really rotten ending to it. Of course, not every reader reads the same way. Some readers enjoy books that mirror real life, and depending on how real that story is, will depend greatly on how I view the book. I want to be entertained, authors, not left feeling like I want to slit my damn wrists after reading your stories. However, if you're one of those people that these types of things don't bother you, well by all means, that's certainly your right, but speaking on behalf of myself, that isn't going to cut it for me. I don't understand why any reader would want to be left feeling saddened by a story they've read? Hell, if I want to be depressed, I can turn on the local news, or check my CNN emails on my smartphone, or just head on to work dealing with rush hour traffic and rude and insensitive people, if I so choose, but to deliberately be made to feel that way, I cannot stomach! One would have to be a glutton for punishment to read those types of stories and come away feeling ok about it.
And when I've had discussions with other readers who give these types of books four and five stars and I begin to dissect the story and ask them questions on how they arrived at their conclusions, they eventually say, "well you're right, that wasn't a good thing to happen," or "yes, I felt that way too," but they still gave the story a high rating. I don't believe in doing that! If the story isn't that great, then it is what it is, and I'm going to be honest in my assessment and rate it accordingly. I'm not going to lie to other unsuspecting readers and say oh this book was wonderful and great when I know damn well the story didn't make me feel that way! What's worse, if you do lie in a review, you're not doing a great service to the author either. Perhaps the author isn't even aware many of his readers feel this way. Lying about it isn't helping anyone,! It's a terrible disservice to the author and the reader.
GREAT BEGINNINGS. . .HAPPY ENDINGS!
I want stories I read to have great endings, or at the very minimum have the right characters getting their just due--something to make me feel that being a good human being means something. The good guys live to rule another day, but when you have the good guys losing and the bad guys winning, I can't handle that. You see, the bad guys win way too often in real life, and to read a fictional story where the same damn thing happens to a character the author made me like, only to destroy my hopes and dreams, well, I've got to cut that book and author loose! You may have stolen my $9.99 download this time, but I'll be damned if you crook me again! I'm a one-and-done type of reader. Fool me once, shame on you, but there will not be a second time to be your fool!
Am I telling authors how they need to write their books? Absolutely not! Every author, including myself, has their own creative licenses they may choose to use to create their stories as they wish, but, and I caution you, I, as the reader, have the right not to like the story if what I stated above happens, and I also have the right to give my review as I see fit, and I also have the right to never purchase another piece of work that author has written. Those are my rights as a customer and reader.
So at the end of the day, it's up to you how you want your readers to feel. If you want your readers to walk away feeling like the good guys stood up and all is right in the fictional world, that's awesome, however, if you want your readers to feel down and depressed after reading about characters they came to love, only for something horrible to go wrong, and the author chose not to fix it, well if you find less readers than you currently had, you only need to point the finger in one direction!
Authors you're in the driver seat. Do you want to drive the road alone or have many other motorists heading in the same direction as you? Buckle Up!
Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet
Make Being 'Good' Mean Something!